Waking Paralysed: Abduction or sleep paralysis?



In introducing the subject of sleep paralysis, it will first be necessary to outline a few facts about sleep itself. Considering that we all sleep, it is surprising that the average UFO researcher knows so little about the subject.

Everyone on Earth sleeps. All close to 6 billion of us. Lack of sleep can prove fatal, as happened to a Frenchman in 1973. He suffered from a motor movement disorder named Chorea and was closely watched over by medical staff for four months. During this time, according to the medical evidence the man went totally without sleep. Hallucinations plagued him by night and he eventually died.

The average length of time we sleep each night varies with the age of the individual. Babies sleep about fourteen hours a day. Teenagers of age sixteen need ten to eleven hours a day. From our late teens we average eight hours a night, until later in life when our requirements are harder to generalise.

What happens when you fall asleep? Image you are lying in bed ready for sleep. You close your eyes. If someone speaks your name you would be able to open your eyes and respond. Two way communication is easy. If someone speaks your name at short intervals, one moment there would be a reply; the next nothing. For we normally cross the actual border from awake to asleep in an instant.

Once in the land of sleep, albeit light sleep at this stage, some people experience a myoclonia-a rather violent whole of body jerk. This can be most alarming as it arises so suddenly. These muscle spasms are only recorded during the first five minutes of sleep and occur in normal, healthy people.

As you progress, you pass through various stages of sleep which have been detected by measuring brainwave activity. You travel through stage one, stage two then stage three. Deep sleep or stage four sleep is reached some sixty-ninety minutes after initially falling asleep. If someone tried to waken you now, it would prove extremely difficult. In fact it can take up to several minutes to arouse a child from this stage.

Stage four sleep then gives way to stage three, then stage two. However, instead of passing back to stage one something entirely different happens If someone looks at your eyes they would see your eyeballs moving around, but that your body is still and your muscle tension is almost nil. This is REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. It is where most, but not all, dreaming occurs.

You then cycle through the night between these stages of sleep at about a ninety-minute period-awake, one, two, three, four, three, two, REM, two, three, four, three, two, REM, two, three, two, REM, two, REM, awake gradually. The healthy young adult, spends about 6% of the total sleep in stage one, 50% stage 2, 7% stage three, 16% stage four, 20% REM and 1% is taken up with body movements. The duration of REM periods become progressively longer as the night wears on.

The REM state has several indicators besides eye movements. There is a decrease in both heart rate and blood pressure. Heartbeat is irregular. Muscle tone is almost zero. Penile erection occurs in males and vaginal moistening in females. 

The human brain has a sleep centre. In the stem of the brain is an area called the reticular activating system, which carries out this role. Apparently two different areas separately trigger deep sleep and REM. 

Apart from the two different phases of sleep (REM & Non REM) there are also peculiar events, including imagery which can arise at the onset of sleep (hypnagogic imagery) and upon awakening (hypnopompic imagery). Whilst falling asleep some people experience images in front of their eyes. These images may be reproductions of the events of the day or odd, very odd things, but which, however can seem totally real to the participant. In addition, sleep walking attacks are initiated during the first stage four of the night while the rest of the event occurs in a stage nearer light sleep. Sleep talking on the other hand occurs in sleep stages one and two.

Sleep paralysis

I recall an instance where I woke during the middle of the night, lying on my left side but totally unable to move. I felt terrified, wondering what on earth was happening to me. There was a strange sensation of an ill defined “something” behind me, a “presence.” The presence felt evil. I don’t know how I knew this, but I did. Despite an intense effort to roll over and face this presence I could not. Minutes seemed to go by and in a near panic state I suddenly found that I could direct the movement of my fingers. Strenuous mental effort then allowed me to move more of my body and eventually roll over to my right side and face the presence. However, there was nothing visible and the sensation of presence had gone. This episode was very vivid and so real to me that I believed someone had been present in the room. I just had to get out of bed to search the house for an intruder. I found nothing unusual. This episode, which occurred only once, fits exactly the medical condition, known as “sleep paralysis.”

“Sleep paralysis is a condition in which someone, most often lying in a supine position, and about to drop off to sleep, or just upon waking from sleep, realises that s/he is unable to move, or speak, or cry out…People frequently report a “presence” that is often described as malevolent, threatening or evil.”

J A Cheyne at the Department of Psychology at the University of Waterloo in Ontario Canada has a website dedicated to information on sleep paralysis. The following table (Table One) based on information from that website, provides some data on the elements of sleep paralysis and associated hallucinations.

Other information from the website includes:
• There is a conviction that the presence/entity is real, external and independent to the witness • The event is vivid, and described as real • Sleep paralysis often has an adolescent onset-mean of age 17. Rare for a first episode to happen after the age of 30 • 25-30% of people surveyed identified as having at least one episode in their life • 5-9% of people surveyed have had the experience on several occasions in their life • A few people have had elaborate experiences almost nightly for years • No sex difference • Patterns-frequency -most common-once only or once then occasionally -sometimes-one or more “runs” of frequent attacks over one or two weeks -infrequently-fairly chronic attacks over a long period • A third of SP experiencers experience just the paralysis • Two thirds of SP experiencers have associated hallucinations • About 5% report all the associated components
On the question of frequency of occurrence among the general population, the findings of other studies have been:

• 4.7%  • approximately 40% in two independent studies  • In most studies, approximately 15% to 25% of the subjects reported having experienced at least one episode of sleep paralysis.
Current medical opinion is that sleep paralysis is due to the intrusion of REM sleep into wakefulness. As mentioned above, in REM sleep muscle tone is almost non-existent and so you find yourself unable to move, apart from your eyes.

Night shift paralysis

As an aside, can you become paralysed when you are awake? Yes you can. Stanley Coren in his work “Sleep thieves” reports on just such occurrences. Both nurses and air traffic controllers have reported instances of paralysis, while sitting awake or standing awake, lasting a few minutes. However, no hallucinations were reported.

Waking paralysed: The Old Hag

An excellent study of waking paralysed was published in 1982, written by David J Hufford. Between 1971-1974 Hufford worked at the Folklore Department of the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada. Here he came across descriptions of what he first thought to be a tradition, namely where individuals awoke paralysed and thought they had been visited by something which tradition called the “Old Hag.” Later he collected personal experiences from locals.

In summary, in all instances:
• People believed they were awake

• That they were paralysed

• There was a realistic perception of their environment

• They were fearful.
In many cases the following symptoms were common:

• Lying on their back

• Feeling of a presence

• Feeling of pressure usually on the chest.

The UFO related literature:

Given that waking paralysed has been a notable element of the abduction phenomenon, what have UFO researchers, particularly abduction researchers said about waking paralysed and sleep paralysis in their published works?
1983 Psychiatrist Berthold E. Schwarz carefully documented the results of his extensive investigations into both UFO reports and the paranormal. In a 1983 work he published a case study of a Mr. O. During a number of UFO related episodes, on one occasion Mr. O. was standing outside when he heard a noise then found that he couldn’t move his body, just his head. Looking up, Mr. O. noted two unusual holes in the sky.

Schwarz, commented:
‘Sleep paralysis’ (&) cataplexy which has been known in folklore throughout history as being caused by a nightly visitation of devils and demons, is characterized by a state where the subject feels awake and is aware of his surroundings, but is incapable of voluntary movement. The attack usually lasts from several seconds to several minutes and is accompanied by terror, with or without hallucinations…Cataplexy, however, would not explain the simultaneous animal effects in Mr O’s experience. Patients with sleep paralysis usually have many attacks, and unlike Mr O., a definite psychopathological history.?


Researchers at the J Allen Hynek Centre for UFO Studies in Chicago, USA, collected psychological and demographic data from 27 people who met the CUFOS definition of an abductee. Individual differences in the MMPI testing indicated there were subgroups of abductees in their sample.
“There are good theoretical reasons to expect such subgroups to exist. First, even if physical abductions are occurring, it is likely that some individuals will use the abduction scenario as explanation for their unique, unrelated personal pathologies or experiences (out-of-body experiences, sleep paralysis etc.).” 

An earlier comment relating to sleeping was: “Cluster II respondents report more loneliness as adults, lower levels of happiness throughout their life, more problems sleeping…”


A psychology professor at the University of Kentucky in the USA, Robert A. Baker called attention to the similarities between abductions according to researchers Hopkins, Jacobs and Mack, and medical reports from people having sleep paralysis with hypnagogic and hypnopompic imagery. He considered for all practical purposes that the two sets of reports were identical. The only difference was in the hallucinatory content, stating that ghosts and demons dominated the medical, historical and folklore perspective’s, while UFOs and aliens appear in modern reports.


David J. Hufford, mentioned earlier, attended the 1992 abduction study conference held at MIT in Boston, USA. You will recall that Hufford first came across this set of symptoms in the early 70’s in Newfoundland, Canada. There were traditional beliefs about waking paralysed, hearing the sound of something approaching the bed, having this something climb on top of one, and making it hard to breathe. He was surprised to find that when he surveyed local university students that 20% reported an actual experience of this kind.
Going on to survey other population groups he found widespread accounts. He published a book titled “The Terror that Comes in the Night” in 1982. In it, Hufford makes mention of the work of author and researcher John Keel, and Keel’s reports of “bedroom invaders.”

Hufford later (1985-1988) undertook a sleep paralysis survey, gathering a total of 254 respondents. This added further detail to the data he had already collected.
In discussing the 1992 Roper poll he put forward his view that other questions which in the Roper poll are presented as discreet, also relate to symptoms of a sleep paralysis attack.

For example:

• Hufford had found a consistent connection between his respondents sleep paralysis and them describing flying/OBE sensations • Seeing unusual balls of light in a room also occurs during a sleep paralysis attack.
Hufford was careful to state that the events his respondents describe are not explained by labelling them simply episodes of sleep paralysis. “They remain anomalous, because there is no current explanation of why the experiential contents of sleep paralysis are so tremendously similar-I have documented a complex, cross-culturally stable perceptual pattern involving more than 30 distinct content features.”

Hufford went on to pose the question “If these attacks are anomalous, why is this not simply a confirmation of current abduction theory?”

Hufford stated that paralysis episodes with all of the current content are global in nature and have been stable since ancient times. UFO abductions are regarded as of recent origin.


A group of researchers at the Department of Psychology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada took a look at a whole range of potential explanations for UFO reports of various kinds. They compared groups of individuals who reported nonintense experiences (e.g. lights and shapes in the sky), a group of intense experiencers (seeing and communicating with aliens or missing time) with one control group of community members and another of students. They found that the UFO experiences of people in the intense group were more frequently sleep related than the experiences of nonintense group.

Subjects in both UFO groups reported that over 80% of their experiences occurred at night. 58% of the intense subjects said that their experiences occurred while either falling asleep, dreaming or waking up.
“Those sleep-related UFO experiences that involved paralysis were also usually accompanied by visual and auditory hallucinations (or both) and sometimes by the sense of a presence that was somehow felt but not seen. Experiences of this kind occurred in almost a quarter of the intense UFO group and are most probably explicable in terms of sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis is typically associated with extreme fear and a feeling of suffocation as well as with auditory and visual hallucinations and the sense of a presence (Hufford 1982)…It would be of interest to examine the frequency with which the UFO experiences of these traumatized individuals involve the symptoms of sleep paralysis and the extent to which the fear inherent in sleep paralysis is exacerbated into full blown trauma by beliefs that foster notions of extraterrestrial attack.”


In a 1994 article, Dr Susan Blackmore, a then senior lecturer in Psychology, at the University of the West of England, Bristol, England, postulated that false memory might have a role in abductions, but that it would need a core event to build the fantasy around, Blackmore looked at sleep paralysis as a possible core event.
“One suggestion is sleep paralysis. During normal REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, when the majority of dreams occur, the skeletal muscles are paralysed. This is presumably so that we do not act out our dreams, as animals have been shown to do when the brain centres controlling sleep are suppressed. Normally, we are unaware of this, but occasionally we can become mentally alert while the paralysis persists. Waking up in this way can be extremely unpleasant. Yet it is quite common; surveys shown that about 20 per cent of people have experienced sleep paralysis at one time or another. Trying to move-and failing-makes it worse and often provokes the sense that there is someone or something trying to squash, strangle or suffocate you. Sexual arousal during dreams is common and may add a particularly powerful edge to the experiences.”


Stuart Appelle, of the Department of Psychology, State University of New York College at Brockport, New York in the USA, in a review article of abduction theory and evidence examined a number of hypotheses. One of the areas under scrutiny was that of sleep anomalies.
“Sleep paralysis is characterized by an inability to move (except for the eyes), while seemingly awake. In addition to experience of the paralysis itself, the condition is often accompanied by feelings of anxiety, fear or dread. During an attack of sleep paralysis, the individual typically is aware of his or her surroundings, but on other occasions the state of consciousness is less lucid or is accompanied by hypnagogic/hypnopompic hallucinations…
“Both sleep paralysis and hypnagogic/hypnopompic hallucinations occur in normal people…but they may also be symptomatic (in some cases the only overt symptom; of a sleep disorder called narcolepsy. A narcoleptic attack can occur during normal daytime activities or even while driving.”
“Despite the appeals to parsimony and analogy, as yet there have been no direct tests of a linkage between sleep anomalies and abduction experiences…the overall prevalence of sleep disorders in the abduction experiencer population is not known. Until such evidence is available, the sleep anomalies explanation remains yet another interesting but undemonstrated hypothesis.”

Listing a “top ten” for further research he included:
“1. A relationship between sleep anomalies and the abduction experience seems to make sense on theoretical grounds (and in terms of extent of sleep anomalies in the general population) but is yet to be directly evaluated.”


Nick Rose was a research assistant at the University of the West of England and worked on a project with Dr Susan Blackmore which, among other things, collected reports and conducted surveys of sleep paralysis. Rose’s article poses the question as to whether sleep-related psychological experiences are the answer to alien abductions?
Rose examined the results of the 1992 Roper abduction poll, in particular the item which yielded the highest number of ‘yes’ responses. This was a question about waking up paralysed with a sense of a strange person or presence in the room. Citing personal research Rose observed that this is a common experience with 34% of children and 46% of adults reporting an incidence of sleep paralysis in his own research data.
Describing the common symptoms of sleep paralysis Rose commented that there was a long history of such reports, although ghosts and spirits were seen as the origin not UFO aliens.
The other Roper poll questions were briefly analysed, and dismissed as having mundane causes. Rose’s conclusion was that “Alien abduction, in many cases, is an interpretation of sleep paralysis and hypnagogic imagery. Experiences of abduction that follow this form will be entirely subjective experiences, so there will be no physical proof that the person has been ‘snatched.’”


UFO researcher and author Peter Hough, and Moyshe Kalman, who was trained in traditional psychotherapeutic techniques, jointly investigated the abduction phenomenon between 1992 and 1997. Their research resulted in a book titled “The Truth about Alien Abductions.” One chapter of the book discussed events surrounding a family, the Bonds, who had on one occasion lived on a farm called Black Brook Farm.
“As we have seen, all four women at Black Brook Farm experienced the sensation of paralysis coupled with a feeling that there was a presence in the room, sometimes in bed with them…A high percentage of abductees describe this paralysis as part of their experience. Neurologists think they have the answer. They call it ‘sleep paralysis.’”

In chapter 6, Hough and Kalman discuss sleep paralysis and in particular Hufford’s work in detail, but dismiss sleep paralysis as a potentially useful tool, stating:
“As a blanket explanation for the paralysis that takes hold of experients at the onset of a paranormal event, so-called sleep paralysis leaves a lot to be desired.”


Eddie Bullard, when looking at personal and psychological explanations for abductions stated:
“Sleep paralysis occurs in a sizeable fraction of the population. Besides being a frightening experience in its own right, this paralysis may be accompanied by a sense of presence or even an oppressive, evil figure that weighs on the chest of the sleeper. Like abduction accounts, the “Old hag” experiences display similar content across cultures and are phenomenologically indistinguishable from many “bedroom intrusion” reports, except victims in the latter cases assume aliens are responsible.”


After describing examples of typical abductions Susan Blackmore explored a number of possible explanations such as false memories, psychopathology, temporal lobe lability and sleep paralysis.
The incidence of sleep paralysis is common among narcoleptics; is frequent in 3-6% of the rest of the population and in 40-50% of the population reports occasional sleep paralysis episodes.
Blackmore’s account of a typical episode is one where “…a person wakes paralysed, senses a presence in the room, feels fear or even terror, and may hear buzzing and humming noises or see strange lights. A visible or invisible entity may even sit on their chest, shaking, strangling or prodding them. Attempts to fight the paralysis are usually unsuccessful. It is reputedly more effective to relax, or try and move just the eyes or a single finger or toe….”

Blackmore reviews locations where sleep paralysis seems to underlie regional myths and looks at Spanos’ work.
She mentions the work of Cox who looked at 12 abductees. These were divided into 6 daytime and 5 night-time abductions. Cox found that the night-time abductees reported significantly more frequent sleep paralyses than either of the control groups.
Blackmore than states: “I suggest that the best explanation for many abduction experiences is that they are elaborations of the experience of sleep paralysis.”

Where does the alien imagery come from? “I suggest that, if she has watched TV programs about abductions or read about them, she may begin to think of aliens.”

The Roper Poll is then examined along the lines undertaken by her research assistant Rose in his 1996 article. However, Blackmore took the argument one step further, and suggested that people who had been abducted “…should have a better knowledge of the appearance and behaviour of aliens than people who have not.”
She tested out two hypotheses of this line of reasoning by testing 126 8-13 year old children, and 224 first year university undergraduates in Bristol, England. General details of an imaginary abduction account were read to the subjects, without providing precise details. At the end of the account a questionnaire was used to have the subjects remember the details of the story, plus six questions based on the Roper Poll questions.
One finding was that among the adults the amount of television they watched correlated with their knowledge of aliens and abductions.
Her conclusion was “These results provide no evidence that people who reported more of the indicator experiences had a better idea of what an alien should look like or what should happen during an abduction.”


English UFO researcher, Tony Dodd wrote:
“The sceptics have come up with several possible explanations, always preferring these, however tortuous and unlikely, to the overriding evidence of so many independent witnesses. At different times the culprits have been temporal lobe epilepsy induced by exposure to electro-magnetic fields; sleep paralysis; and downright lies…I can categorically rule out all of these…besides, how do any of these explanations account for the abduction where more than one person is taken? Are they all simultaneously suffering from sleep paralysis or epilepsy?”


A more detailed work by three American researchers, Randle, Estes, & Cone included a number of references to sleep paralysis.
In reviewing the work of abductee and author Karla Turner, the authors points to a recollection of Turner’s husband as “…a classic example of sleep paralysis…”
In suggesting ways in which abduction accounts are generated by some researchers: “They overlook common and well-established psychological phenomena such as sleep paralysis because they don’t fit into their belief structure.”

Chapter 20 of their work is titled “Sleep paralysis and alien abduction” which includes the statement:
“Our review of scientific and psychological literature, an examination of hundreds of abduction cases, and interviews with abductees suggest that 50% of UFO abductee reports are the results of sleep paralysis.” (26 p299).
They review the current knowledge of data on sleep paralysis and that of David Hufford’s research. After this they restate their argument that “The argument being made is not that all abduction accounts can be explained by sleep paralysis but that a portion of them can be explained by the phenomenon.”

Noting that it could be argued that sleep paralysis is induced by the aliens as part of the abductee as part of the abduction, they put forward a counter argument. Victims of sleep paralysis recall the attack, but do not recall an abduction. They argue that hypnosis is then necessary to turn the sleep paralysis into an abduction.


Well known English author Timothy Good, an extraterrestrial proponent:
“Regarding ‘sleep paralysis’, I have experienced this myself on numerous occasions, although seldom in recent years. Typically, I wake up in the small hours, fully conscious, my body becoming progressively paralysed, my solar plexus and/or the bed apparently vibrating, and aware of a sense of malevolence. Only through a supreme effort of will am I able to ‘dislodge’ whatever it is. I have neither seen nor heard anything usual on these occasions, however, Abduction proponents maintain that this is the initial stage of a typical alien abduction. They may well be right, but I have no intention of finding out! In any case, my feeling is that these particular ‘presences’ are not necessarily of extraterrestrial origin.”
In discussing parallels between sleep paralysis in its various forms and the typical alien abduction scenario, author Ralph Noyes noted that:
“Allowing fully for a general sloppiness of approach on the part of many UFOlogists, coupled with a strong wish by some of them to cram the data into preconceived notions and to use such dubious techniques as hypnotic regression…there are far too many differences between the two experiences to enable us to assimilate the one to the other (though) these differences must not blind us to some very striking similarities.” Noyes, Ralph “Abduction:The Terror that Comes…” The UFO Report 1991 Timothy Good.

My own research files

I examined the several dozen Australian abduction files in my filing cabinet to see if I could locate any examples of accounts similar to those described above as sleep paralysis. I was surprised to find that maybe 30% of my cases contained elements associated with sleep paralysis. All of these accounts were reported to UFO research organisations in the context of abduction accounts.


Mr M. NSW At 11.30pm one night a man went to bed. He woke up paralysed. He saw the bottom of his bedclothes rise up and was powerless to do anything. A peculiar sensation travelled from his feet, up his back and into his head. He felt euphoric. There was a bright light in the room. He has no further recollections of the night.


Ms G South Australia She was asleep but woke up paralysed, lying on her back, after hearing a strange “bird call.” There was a sense of presence in the room. There was a force like a wind coming out of her back. The bed clothes seemed to be vibrating. She had a feeling of being out of her body in a semi-conscious state. She came back into her body and felt rested/relaxed.


Ms S Qld Ms S was sleeping on the sofa in a darkened room, and thought she got up to turn on the lights but none worked. She then saw flashing blue lights at the window. Going to touch the door handle to her son’s room she couldn’t move a muscle. She woke to find herself on the sofa, totally wide-awake and scared.


Ms B. South Australia Ms B , aged 21 went to bed one night. Lying on her back, she heard sounds. She was about to drop off to sleep when she felt she could fall through the wall. The bedroom door sounded like it burst open and something skittled across the floor. Suddenly she heard heavy footsteps coming down the hall. She found she was paralysed. She felt something behind her. Her whole body filled with an energy.


Ms A NSW Ms A was in bed when she saw a “shadow in the window”, then a caped figure appeared at the end of the bed. There were security bars on the bedroom window so the figure could not have climbed in through that window. She felt that her body was paralysed except for her tongue. Even though it was not physically possible due to the window bars, the figure was “sucked out through the window.”


Nigel South Australia Nigel reported a number of odd experiences, of which the following two were provided at interview.
a) Nigel was in bed and nodding off to sleep. Then he was wide awake but couldn’t move anything. He felt something being pushed into his arm. He tried very hard to move a muscle but found he was not able to. He was terrified. He then woke up, and calmed down. Two hours later went back to sleep. Same thing happened again, he woke but couldn’t move. He finally succeeded in waking up and with heart racing, saw the bedroom door closing by itself. He got up and checked the house but found nothing out of place.
b) On another occasion in 1987 he was in bed, when he woke paralysed. It felt as if someone was lifting the bedclothes off him. He felt like a vacuum cleaner was sucking thoughts out of his head. There were vibrations in his body.


Mr K. NSW Lying in bed something seemed to grab Mr K’s ankles. At the same time numbness, tingling and churning sensation crawled up his body and up to his head. He was paralysed except for his eyes. he tried to call out to family members but was not able to. he started to panic. Looking to his right side he became aware of 3-4 figures wearing dark robes with hoods. A message came into his mind not to worry and to relax. Two different beings were noted to his left side. A being pointed a long tube at him and inserted it in him. Mr K blanked out. Next he came too, and found he could get out of bed. In the nearby TV room had been his father and brother who were asleep. The next day he found a puncture hole at the spot where the being had touched.


Mr A South Australia On one occasion he was coming out of sleep when with eyes closed, and became very frightened as he had the impression there were three entities in the room. he then felt himself loosing consciousness. On another occasion coming out of sleep he felt as if his entire right side wanted to float upwards.


Mrs W Queensland At 2am while in bed half-asleep, Mrs W felt that something was wrong and she had a sensation of being watched. She saw what she took to be smoke entering the room via the open window. Looking at the clock she saw it was 2.30 am. A large white round object became visible in the room. She experienced perspiration and found herself breathing heavily. A message came saying “There will be many landings soon and miracles, don’t be afraid-we love you.” She then felt a “draining away” sensation and the fog went with it.


Mr L. South Australia In the early hours of the morning, Mr L awoke in his bed to find himself flat on his back and paralysed. He couldn’t move an arm, a muscle or his body in general. He lay there for quite a while, finding it hard to breathe, then “blanked out.” When he came to he found he could move an arm. He put this arm up to his face and could feel a “tube” or a flat, long, hard object on his face. He stroked it. He “blanked out” again. Wakening again, he had a funny feeling of floating. There were no unusual odours. The next time he woke he was able to get out of bed and switch on the light. Throughout all this his wife in the same bed had slept right through.


Ms B W South Australia Ms B who had reported a large number of unusual episodes, woke up paralysed one morning. She was definitely awake but just couldn’t move. She was really frightened by this. After a few minutes the feeling went away.


Mr R Western Australia While watching television late at night, a young man was overcome by fear, a tingling sensation and a feeling of a presence watching him. He lay on his right side, facing a wall, too frightened to move or look around. He was convinced that someone or something was in his room as he could hear footsteps and shuffling sounds.


Kelly Cahill Victoria (a) During sleep she dreamed of a presence in the room. There was a telepathic message not to be afraid, then she felt as if a suction device on her chest was draining some kind of energy out of her. She became frightened. She felt terrified, and woke up and opened her eyes. Very close to her she saw a tall, black figure-black face and big red eyes. She was paralysed with fear. She could sense and see this figure was solid. Suddenly it vanished.
(b) She woke from sleep to feel something pulling on her ankles. She felt as if something were turning her over slowly so that her legs were hanging off the bed. She was terrified, and couldn’t open her eyes. Her body was paralysed, and she couldn’t move the lower half. The upper body felt like lead. The presence pulling her, ceased. She could then open her eyes and found her body was in its normal place. However, she then saw a tall, black figure to the side of the bed and noted its eyes.


Mr B. South Australia A young man woke during the night to find himself paralysed, lying on his back; he could only describe as a “shift in consciousness.” It terrified him. He did have control over his eyes. the next thing was a feeling of movement into a dark place. There were vague shapes there. He tried to yell and scream, then lost consciousness. When he came to and felt he was in a fairly well lit environment. The next time he woke he was in his own bed and it was 4am. He merely went back to sleep. Two weeks later a similar thing happened again. he recalls being paralysed and then waking up in his bed with no recollection in between. It was again 4am.


Mr A & Ms B South Australia A young couple described apparent abductions by small beings. The woman reported waking paralysed on several occasions to see small, grey beings taking her boyfriend away. he had no recollections of any abductions.


Ms S. Western Australia A woman, age 46 was falling asleep at 10pm when she found herself paralysed. She saw a blinding white light and a throbbing noise in her ears. She lay in fear as her body rose off the bed and almost reached the ceiling. Suddenly she went blank and woke up hours later, exhausted, to detect an unusual odour in her room. She found bruises and puncture marks and believed she had been raped.


A literature search

After looking through my own files I examined a few of the abduction related cases in UFO books in my own library. I found a number of instances with elements described in the sleep paralysis literature, including the following:
Date unknown Dorothy Canada When falling asleep one night Dorothy mentally asked the aliens, “What are you like?” She then experienced a series of faces which appeared to float through the door and across the ceiling.
Date unknown Eve Canada During the early hours of the morning Eva felt she couldn’t move. She looked to the left of her and saw the form of a body.

Various dates USA

(a) Since 1956 Jan troubled by vivid nightmares. Begin with high-pitched noise, which gets stronger and stronger. Finds herself seemingly awake but paralysed. During the paralysis gets the impression whole group of something were in room. Mentally they’d ask her to go with them. (29 p33).

(b) 1967-68.
Jan. Woke up one night unable to move. Floating in dark room were grotesque, coloured faces-several of them. Felt inability to breathe. No sound. Immobilised for 30 minutes. Mentally voices said they wanted to take command of her body.

Lori. Went to bed 10.45pm Dropped off immediately. She woke, scared to find herself paralysed and was lying on her side and aware there were beings in the room. One of the men came over to the bed asking her to come with him. During this Lori heard a loud whining noise. The force, which had entered the room, turned her on her back. She then saw a figure in the room. She looked at his hands but it was his eyes, which she was most conscious of.

Undated USA.

Gloria was in bed with her husband who was asleep. She believed she was awake, but found she couldn’t move. The bed was vibrating and there were several figures in the room. Gray with eyes that were black holes. (30 p147).


“APW” UK On a winter’s night, a 13-year-old girl was in bed in a dark room when she felt a strong presence had entered the bedroom. A plate-sized circle of light was seen on the ceiling, which then turned a blue colour. A blue liquid fell down and turned into a human, male figure. It was blank; there were no features or detail. She then noticed she was paralysed. A voice told her not to be afraid. The dimensions of the room altered and a scene appeared in front of her. She tried to scream but found she could not. The voice and girl communicated. The next memory she had was of waking next morning.


Philip Osborne USA

(a) 1964. Woke up one night to find himself paralysed. Philip sensed someone or something in his room-a presence. He was fearful. The paralysis then went away. He got up, dressed and went for a walk.

(b) 1979. Philip awakened in his apartment at night to find himself paralysed. During the estimated one minute duration of this, Philip could not move, was unable to move his head or call for assistance. (32 pp155-156).


Female UK At 3.50am a young mother was in bed asleep, when she woke to hear a buzzing noise. The noise vibrated through her body and her head felt it would burst. An invisible figure held her wrist. Unable to move due to paralysis, she saw a blue light bath the bedroom. When the entity touched her she could see into her body just like an x-ray. Suddenly, the figure was gone and it was 4.50am.


Dave Canada After a late night watching television, Dave went to sleep at about 1am. Suddenly, he found himself paralysed. Simultaneously, a tingling sensation went through his body and he sensed a presence in his room. Although he could move his eyes, he became very frightened. Dave then reported seeing a shadowy face directly in front of him. The being touched Dave’s forehead with a “rod.” He felt that the rod extracted information from his head. Suddenly, the event finished. There was simply no paralysis and no creature present.


Louis Canada

(a) Louis was sleeping in his bedroom and recalls waking up. He felt paralysed, unable to move or open his eyes, although somehow he sensed the room was engulfed in yellow light. Cold, clammy hands grabbed his calves and arms. He struggled. Whatever it was let go. He looked around the room but couldn’t find anything out of the ordinary.
(b)Over the years Louis has awoken many times with a feeling of paralysis and a presence on his chest. On these occasions he found breathing difficult and was unable to call for help.


Angie USA Angie woke from sleep to find herself paralysed. In the darkened room she could see a group of white beings. The outstanding visible feature was their eyes, which mesmerised her. The beings communicated with her and she believed she was carried off outside the house. The leader of the group injected her arm and next morning she found two red dots on her arm.


Jane USA Jane woke from a dream at 5.30am to hear “voices and faint music.” She then footsteps and glimpsed the black outline of a man. She was paralysed with fear and although she tried to move, found she couldn’t.


Lisa USA Between 1 and 1.20am Lisa was asleep and felt paralysed. She yelled “No!” two or three times. She tried to wake up her husband then felt she was being lifted off the bed by a “force.” She struggled and broke the paralysis, which also ended the “force” feeling.


Daniel UK

(a) A 16-year-old boy recounted that a bright light had waked him. He sat up and felt he had been hit by some energy, which ran through his body. It was as if something entered his body. He found himself to be paralysed and scared. Then he went to sleep and woke up next morning.
(b) The same boy summed up numerous experiences, saying that a light wakes him up, a tall entity rises at the bottom of the bed, then a number of small entities are present, fuzzy and indistinct, moving quickly. He is paralysed but convinced he is awake. He is scared.


The existence of the medical condition known as sleep paralysis has been well established over many years. Its frequency and features have been documented in many studies. Its origin has been well established, as an intrusion of REM sleep into what otherwise should be wakefulness.
An ideal situation to test the sleep paralysis hypothesis would be if an independent witness saw an abductee during an episode of sleep paralysis, following which the abductee immediately claimed an abduction had taken place during this time. Have we ever come across such a case? It would be remarkable if we did for how could you be sure the abductee was experiencing sleep paralysis at the time?

Well there is one such possible case documented in the UFO literature. Jenny Randles and Paul Whetnall in a book titled “Alien Contact” back in 1981, reported on the numerous episodes surrounding the Sunderland family in the UK. On one occasion an experience occurred to Gaynor Sunderland between 10.15pm and 11.45pm. However, her mother went into her room at 11.20pm and found her daughter asleep in bed. How did her mother describe the scene? Gaynor normally slept curled up. However, on this occasion Mrs Sunderland said that: “She was rigid. Her arms were straight out against the side of the bed, above the bedclothes. And she was lying perfectly flat like a corpse.” She was breathing very deeply and slowly. By 12.30am when Mrs Sunderland checked again, Gaynor this time was sleeping curled up. 

Is it possible that Gaynor was in fact in sleep paralysis when he mother saw her, in the middle of an abduction experience? We can never know for sure, but this case certainly lends weight to the sleep paralysis hypothesis.


As in many other areas of UFO research, there is a need for further research. For example:

• UFO researchers should conduct inquiries into the sleeping patterns, sleep disorders, and reported imagery of abductees at the time of the abduction, as they conduct their investigations with a view to testing the sleep paralysis hypothesis

• Case studies of individual abductees need to be undertaken looking at their life long medical history, and specifically their sleeping habits history.

• There is a need for someone to compare the incidence of sleep paralysis and sleep disorders between the abductee and non-abductee populations to see if differences are notable

• A study needs to be undertaken of the role of paralysis in the abduction scenario. Waking paralysed is one thing; being abducted from a car, taken to a UFO and then finding oneself paralysed lying on a table is quite another experience


My own view, after conducting this piece of research, is that some reports by abductees seem to have far more to do with sleep paralysis than with any extraterrestrial visitation. However, let me make it clear that there are other abduction accounts, which are clearly not, in our current state of knowledge amenable to explanation by recourse to sleep paralysis.

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